Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Lynch gets the go-ahead for Westminster Coroner’s Court extension

  • 4 Comments

Lynch Architects has won approval for a timber and stone extension to Westminster Coroner’s Court

The go-ahead from Westminster Council, the client for the project, came despite objections from local amenity group the Thorney Island Society, The Victorian Society and a late social media storm triggered by the borough’s shadow cabinet member for business and planning, Geoff Barraclough.

The Labour councillor tweeted that the proposed 125m² side-extension, housing more office space and improved facilities for visitors, ‘was not a thing of beauty’.

This prompted several architects and leading critics to come out in support of Lynch’s plans, with several putting their names to a letter backing the plans sent to the borough’s planning committee members ahead of last week’s meeting.     

The Thorney Island Society had argued that the ’monumental scale and design of the proposed extension’ was not appropriate next to the original 1893 brick-built Grade II-listed ’domestic-scale pavilion’.

Meanwhile The Victorian Society said the proposal obscured the existing courthouse’s western elevation, that its zinc-covered barrel-vault roof ‘appeared incongruous’, and that its height should be reduced to ’reinforce the subservience of the extension’.

sectional model

sectional model

Source: Lynch Architects

Sectional model

However, the plans, which were given minor tweaks in April, were passed unanimously by councillors.

The Jura limestone-clad scheme will be built with a timber structure and the shape of the new building has been designed to echo the top-lit volume of the original Victorian court.

The building will also feature stained-glass windows designed by architectural artist Brian Clarke.

Construction work will also see the installation of a kitchen and sofa beds into the upper floor of the existing court building for emergency accommodation.

Lynch Architects has already worked on the site at 65 Horseferry Road. A new garden of remembrance designed by the practice was built to the left side of the court in summer 2018, its completion timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, as families bereaved by the fire attended the inquest at the court.

Preparation building works are set to start on site in November and the project is scheduled to open in Spring 2022.

Statement to Westminster Council’s planning committee (7 July 2020) by Patrick Lynch, founder of Lynch Architects

When my father died suddenly in 1992, I was a fourth-year architecture student on an Erasmus Exchange in Lyon, France. I attended the inquest at the Victorian Coroner’s Court in Taunton a few weeks later with my mother and siblings, and our overriding memory is not of the exterior of the stone building, but of its dignified, solemn timber interior. Exposed to press photography and intrusive journalism that day, I vowed that, if I was ever called upon to design a coroner’s court, then I would place the needs of the bereaved above anything else, and aim to protect their privacy and dignity as much as possible.

Having worked closely with Her Majesty’s Coroner for Inner West London over the past four years on the design of the extension to Westminster Coroner’s Court and its Garden of Remembrance, I now know in painful detail how the needs of the bereaved are central to the mission of the coroner’s service. The planning application before you reflects this experience, and represents an unusually close collaboration between the design team, the client, the planning authority, Historic England, a world-renowned stained-glass artist, and the four local borough councils that fund and use the building.

I am not a planning consultant nor a public relations expert, and I’m sure that the process of engagement with the local community could have been handled better.

initial street elevation sketch

initial street elevation sketch

Source: Lynch Architects

Initial street elevation sketch

Nevertheless, our task has been to accommodate individuals’ private experiences of sorrow and loss in their intricate use of quite a complex public building with serious, dignified, quietly beautiful, civic architecture. This is a task which the coroner and we have approached with modesty, pragmatism and tact, in the hope that our efforts will ease the suffering of the bereaved, respecting their plight; and respecting also the setting of the listed Victorian courthouse, maintaining the clear identity of its simple, symmetrical red and brick form. We are echoing some of its features and materials, yet in a clearly deferential manner, respecting the integrity of the original courthouse building.

It is obviously very difficult to convince everyone with drawings and images of this profound effort of decorum, craft and care. However, Historic England, the planning department of Westminster – not to mention the numerous architecture critics of our national press who have written supporting our design – as well as the numberless distraught visitors to the Garden of Remembrance since it opened in 2018, agree that there is nothing to object to in our work. In fact, quite the reverse. We urge you to listen to their witness please.

Westminster coronary court approval

As submitted in February (left) and as approved in July (right)

As submitted in February (left) and as approved in July (right)

  • 4 Comments

Related files

Readers' comments (4)

  • It is obviously difficult to get precisely the right 'tone' in terms of architecture and atmosphere on a project like this - but what a great job done here, congratulations!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Incredible project.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Can't see a construction detailed section but not a barrel vault as the Victorian Society proffered, as a skylight is at point of greatest stress. Instead looks like August Komendant's solution at Kimbell where Kahn also wanted light to come in from the apex. So, not a vault……….concrete shells? However, that aside a very fine project.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I would defend this as excellent in principle, but there is something very uncomfortable about the relationship between new and old. I think the problem is that the new extension is forward to the pavement than the existing, making it too prominent and fighting with the scale of the existing. The new should be pushed back behind the front line of the existing, with its front elevation possibly in matching brickwork (possibly too difficult!)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs

Discover architecture career opportunities. Search and apply online for your dream job.
Find out more